Reading between the Lines: Luke’s Omission of Mark 14:3–9

by Julie M. Smith

There are solid reasons to believe that Mark was the first of the four Gospels to be written and that Luke used Mark as a source.[1] So when we notice differences between the two, we might wonder what motivated Luke to change Mark’s text. Let’s compare Luke 22 with Mark 14. While Luke is not identical to Mark, the strong similarities in both content and language suggest that Luke wrote it with a written copy of Mark in hand.[2] In the first two verses of Luke 22, Luke closely tracks Mark’s text as he describes the plot against Jesus. Then there is an omission before Luke resumes Mark’s story of Judas’ role in the plot to kill Jesus in verses 3–6.

But what about the omission? It consists of the material found in Mark 14:3–9, a text which describes Jesus’ anointing by a woman in Bethany. In that story, Jesus is dining at the home of Simon the leper. An unidentified woman enters and anoints Jesus’ head. Some ask why the ointment, which was incredibly expensive, was wasted when it could have been sold and the money given to the poor. Jesus tells them to leave her alone because she has done a good work: the poor, he says, will always be there, but he will not. He explains that she has anointed his body in preparation for burial and that what she has done will be told wherever the gospel is preached. The story shows the woman symbolically enacting a prophetic understanding that Jesus is the anointed priest and king who will suffer and die.[3]

Today I’d like to consider the reasons why Luke might have omitted this story.[4] Spoiler alert: we don’t know—and we cannot determine―why he did this. Luke didn’t tell us, and we certainly can’t read his mind from this historical distance. I pose the question about Luke’s omission not because it is possible to answer it definitively, but because considering it creates an opportunity to think about the distinct interests that Mark and Luke bring to their stories of Jesus’ life. Exploring this question also permits me to engage the forthcoming commentary on Luke by S. Kent Brown and to share with you several ways in which his approach to Luke has been enormously helpful to my own work on Mark, as well as a few instances in which our approaches differ. We’ll begin by exploring five possible reasons why Luke may have omitted Mark’s anointing story.

The first reason is that the story didn’t fit the message that Luke wanted to convey about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. Discipleship is an enormously important theme in both Mark’s and Luke’s Gospels. They agree on the basics: that discipleship means following Jesus. But they diverge on the details: in Mark’s Gospel, the disciples are primarily portrayed as “learners,” which is a nice way of saying that they still have a lot to learn. By emphasizing their lack of understanding, Mark is able to highlight Jesus’ patience with them as well as to encourage his audience members who struggle in their own discipleship. In Mark, the disciples are very fallible folks who frequently make mistakes. They are called not to go out into the world at first, but to be with Jesus.[5] They sometimes do not understand what Jesus is saying.[6] James and John request honors.[7] At one point, Peter even rebukes Jesus for what Jesus has taught him.[8] At the Last Supper, when Jesus tells Peter that Peter will deny Jesus, Peter responds, “I will not deny thee in any wise.”[9] In the very moment that Peter is promising not to deny Jesus, he denies Jesus; the irony here is overwhelming and in other, less serious circumstances, would be comical. When Jesus is arrested, the disciples flee.[10] These six instances reflect Mark’s vision of discipleship: Mark teaches that Jesus doesn’t expect his disciples to be flawless; he expects them to stick close by so that they might increase in understanding. And Jesus is very patient with them while they do so. This is a very hopeful message.

Luke’s view of discipleship is somewhat different. Note that all six of these texts from Mark are softened or omitted in Luke’s Gospel,[11] so that Luke’s picture of the disciples has much less emphasis on their weaknesses. Rather, as Kent Brown explains, the key teaching about discipleship in Luke is that disciples consecrate family, property, and lives to the Savior.[12] The focus is not on their learning curve but on their consecration. Luke has chosen to shine his light on a different, but equally important, message about what it means to be a disciple.

How might these differing viewpoints explain Luke’s omission of Mark’s anointing story? In Mark’s text, some who witness the anointing complain about the waste of ointment. While Mark doesn’t identify the “some,” there are good reasons to believe that they are the disciples.[13] If Luke understood Mark to say that the disciples objected to the anointing, he might have chosen not to include this story in his own record because it did not cohere with the message that he wanted to present: Mark’s text shows a teaching moment, not a consecration opportunity, and thus doesn’t fit Luke’s focus. So we might conclude that Luke has omitted Mark’s anointing because he wants to emphasize a different facet of what it means to be a disciple.

A second reason that Luke may have omitted Mark’s story is due to its portrayal of women’s roles. Historically, Luke has been recognized as devoting special attention to the women in Jesus’ life; of the material unique to Luke, a disproportionate amount features female characters. And one of the distinguishing characteristics of Luke’s Gospel is that he frequently features similar stories, one about a man and one about a woman, as this slide indicates.[14] Notice that this phenomenon occurs in both Luke’s selection of stories and in Jesus’ spoken teachings. Let me digress a bit here to say that, while this pattern is generally recognized by scholars, when I read Brown’s work on Luke, I was able to add another line to my chart: the names of the key disciples. I appreciate his careful work on this topic; he observed something that had gone unnoticed in many other sources—even in many of the specifically feminist interpretations—regarding these female disciples: “such a place of honor, next to the Twelve, signals their high importance among Jesus’ closest followers. They will reappear at the cross and at the tomb, following him to Jerusalem and thereby becoming first-rank witnesses of his resurrection. . . . [T]heir involvement in these significant events, and their close tie to the Twelve, underscore their roles as primary participants in Jesus’ emerging church.”[15] Further, I appreciated Brown’s repeated emphasis on the idea that women’s stories were not a “special interest”[16] of Luke’s but rather integral to Jesus’ ministry. His commentary also noted the respectful treatment of women that Jesus modeled.

So attention to women in Luke’s Gospel is definitely extensive, especially for its cultural context. However, more recent research[17] has complicated this picture by observing that Luke has a strong tendency to feature women in stereotypically female roles.[18] But it is also true that Luke ennobles these roles: Luke features women who serve, but he also redefines serving not as a demeaning task but rather as a key Christian act and, in fact, the hallmark of authentic Christian leadership. It could be said that Luke equalizes men and women not by moving women into men’s roles but rather by honoring women’s roles.

In contrast, Mark often features women in roles that were considered only appropriate for men, something Luke generally does not do. Mark’s anointing story profoundly transgresses cultural boundaries; while anointing could be a simple act of hospitality, in Mark’s text it has symbolic overtones that indicate that the woman has prophetic knowledge of Jesus’ kingly nature, priestly nature, and forthcoming death. It would have been most contrary to cultural expectations for a woman to anoint Jesus’ head, especially with these symbolic meanings, and so we have our second reason why Luke might have omitted the story.

Next, in recent years, much attention has been paid to the symbolic use of narrative space in Mark’s Gospel. Mark suggests that the temple is as corrupt as a leper’s house by following the same outline of events as Leviticus 14, a text which describes the procedure for cleansing a leprous house. So Mark positions the temple as an unclean leprous house! This inversion of sacred and profane space continues in the anointing story, where Mark—by featuring the anointing of Jesus in an actual leper’s house instead of in the temple—shows the inversion to be complete. Mark thus condemns the temple as hopelessly corrupt.

The house-turned-temple is an important idea in Mark. One insight in Brown’s commentary that I found most useful is his notion that home and family are key analytic categories in the text, with many stories emphasizing their importance. For example, he shows how the miraculous catch of fish that accompanies the calling of the disciples[19] is not just evidence of Jesus’ power but also provisions the disciples’ families so they can follow Jesus. This insight on the importance of home and family has influenced my own work on Mark as I’ve focused on the kin dynamics and settings of the stories of the Gadarene demoniac, the woman with the hemorrhage, and Jairus’ daughter.[20] And while I’m not claiming to have solved the age-old problem of Mark’s “messianic secret” (which is: why Jesus sometimes commands people not to tell others about him), I have found that many of the knots unravel when one pays attention to family relationships. And if I may make a general comment on the question of what an LDS commentary might have to offer to the larger world of biblical studies: I can think of few analytical approaches more fitting than a special attention to home and family dynamics in sacred text, especially when combined, as Brown has done here, with close attention to and respect for women’s stories.

But back to the temple. Mark has highlighted its shortcomings. Contrast Luke: as Brown points out, in Luke’s Gospel, references to the temple are frequent and positive. This Gospel begins and ends in the temple,[21] Mary and Joseph make offerings there, and Jesus teaches there. By omitting the withering of the fig tree[22] and relocating the cursing of the fig tree and presenting it as a parable,[23] Luke removes Mark’s bracketing of the cleansing of the temple with references to the fig tree and thus reshapes and neutralized the message concerning the temple. The contrast between Luke and Mark’s portrayal of the temple is never as keen as it is when Jesus dies: Mark narrates the rending of the temple veil after Jesus’ death, suggesting increased temple access through the death of Jesus; this is his final reference to the temple. But in Luke, the rending of the veil occurs immediately before Jesus dies, suggesting an entirely different symbolism: what Brown calls “the unhappy hand”[24] of God expressing displeasure at Jesus’ death. And the final reference to the temple in Luke―which is, in fact, the final line of the Gospel and thus carries enormous weight―presents Jesus’ disciples still worshiping there. Clearly, Mark and Luke represent different attitudes towards the temple, but there is no evidence of disagreement between Mark and Luke on the topic of sacred spaces or ordinances in general. Rather, they differ on a much narrower topic: the sanctity of the actual temple during the mortal ministry of Jesus, with Mark focusing on shortcomings stemming from its corrupt leadership and Luke choosing to focus on its still-extant potential as sacred space. And this may explain why Luke omits Mark 14:3–9: it doesn’t fit with his view of the temple; by omitting Mark’s anointing story, Luke has removed the capstone to Mark’s temple theology, which shows the temple to be hopelessly corrupted.

The next possibility: in Mark’s story, the ointment that the woman uses costs about what a laborer would have earned in a year. So when some people object that the ointment could have been sold and the money given to the poor, they offer what seems to be a pretty reasonable complaint. Jesus’ response quotes Deuteronomy 15:11, a text which mandates an ongoing obligation to care for the poor, but Jesus also notes that he will not always be with them. His answer prioritizes the anointing due to the limited window of time during which it is possible. The anointing is further justified by its rich symbolic connotations as the woman’s physical testimony of her prophetic knowledge. So it is not that Mark’s story casts charity as unimportant; rather, it is precisely because it is so important that it can highlight the even greater significance of the anointing.

Scholars have long recognized that Luke’s Gospel shows a special concern for the poor. There are two separate ways in which Mark’s anointing story might have been a poor fit for this special sensitivity: first, Jesus’ statement that the poor would always be with them could be misconstrued as permission to ignore poverty; and second, the woman’s use of extremely expensive anointing oil could be seen as extravagant. It is not difficult to imagine that Luke might have found Mark’s story to detract from the message that he wanted to convey about charity. After all, his audience would have no chance to anoint Jesus―for them, serving the poor is central and anything else could be a distraction. So perhaps the reason that Luke chose to omit Mark 14:3–9 is that it did not mesh well with his emphasis on serving the poor.

Next, Christology refers to the study of the identity of Jesus. The term “high” Christology is used for presentations of Jesus that emphasize his divine nature, while “low Christologies” emphasize his human aspects. Mark’s text is regarded as containing a very low Christology: Jesus shows a variety of human emotions[25] and he is not omniscient[26] or omnipotent.[27] But I would argue, contrary to this consensus, that Mark’s Christology is low in obvious ways and high in subtle ways. Thus it is not “low” or “high” but rather “full.” For example, in the anointing story, Jesus is anointed not by a divine being or by a great religious leader but by an anonymous woman. Thus on an obvious level, Mark’s Christology is low. But that anointing signifies Jesus’ unique and exalted identity, which constitutes a very high Christology, but one very subtly presented. Given that both high and low christologies are combined in one story, the picture that emerges is full. Luke’s Christology is different. He smooths the rough edges of the portrayal of Jesus in Mark. For example, he omits the story where Jesus’ family thinks that he is insane.

While not a matter of “high” or “low” Christology per se, an important characteristic of Jesus is isolated by Brown in Luke’s Gospel: “Several accounts tell us about a characteristic of Jesus that his acquaintances know: he is an uncontrollable talker. At every turn, it seems, he takes opportunity to teach, regularly overpowering the conversation so that others have to remain quiet.” This is particularly interesting in comparison with Mark, where it is no exaggeration to say that Jesus is the strong, silent type who speaks relatively rarely and is much more a man of action.       

Given that, in Mark 14:9, Jesus proclaims that wherever the gospel is preached, the woman’s actions will be spoken of as a memorial of her, it is perhaps ironic that Luke omits this passage from his own Gospel. But Luke has a different remembrance: his account of the Last Supper contains Jesus’ command to “do this in remembrance of me.”[28] Mark’s story of the Last Supper does not. So Luke relocates the memorial from the telling of the anointing woman’s story to participation in the ritual meal. This shift may be a further indication of the different theological concerns of the authors.

So Luke may have omitted Mark’s anointing story because it didn’t fit the picture of Jesus that he wanted to paint for his audience, either because of its low Christology, or because Jesus is relatively passive and quiet in the scene, or because Luke wanted to highlight the fact that the Last Supper would be the sole remembrance ritual commanded to Christians.

We’ve covered five reasons why Luke may have omitted Mark’s anointing story.[29] We can’t discern Luke’s motives from this historical distance, but this examination has shown that Mark’s anointing story would not have helped Luke develop several of his major themes. As Brown writes, “[the Gospels] are . . . as individual as personal testimonies; they each approach Jesus from a different angle.”[30] So it is perhaps no surprise that, given the limitations under which they had to work, the Gospel writers would choose different stories in order to highlight or de-emphasize certain aspects of Jesus’ life. As Roger Keller explained, each Gospel is like a different facet of a diamond.[31] Luke omits Mark’s anointing story in order to focus our gaze on other aspects of Jesus’ ministry. This much is clear. But there is one more issue we must consider: despite the omission of Mark 14:3–9, Luke’s Gospel does feature a story where a woman anoints Jesus. It occurs in Luke 7.

This story has numerous similarities to Mark’s anointing, as the middle column shows:  during a meal in a house where the host is named Simon, a woman enters with an “alabaster box of ointment” and anoints Jesus, an objection is raised, there is reference to “pence,” money lending, and forgiveness of debts, and Jesus responds to the objection and vindicates the woman. These similarities lead many scholars to conclude that both stories relate the same incident from the life of Jesus. But if you look at the outside columns, you see that there are some significant differences as well: its chronology in Jesus ministry,[32] whether Simon is a leper or a Pharisee, whether the woman is unidentified or a sinner, whether the head or the feet are anointed, what the objection is, the context of the reference to “pence,” the context of the reference to forgiveness of debts, Jesus’ response, and the main points of the story.

This complicated mix[33] of similarities and differences leads some scholars to conclude that there were two anointings and others to conclude that there was only one. There is no consensus on this matter. The determination here affects not only how we interpret the anointing story, but also how we judge the historical accuracy of the Gospels. If there was only one anointing and Luke has made these changes to Mark’s narrative, then Luke exercised a relatively free hand in molding details to serve his theological interests. We would therefore regard Luke’s Gospel as less concerned with history and more concerned with theology. Conversely, if there were two anointings, then we are left without information regarding how much editing Luke did of the traditions which he received.

Brown argues for two different anointings, writing that “the differences [between] the accounts are decisive.”[34] This position has the advantage of preserving the historical reliability of Luke’s narrative.[35] Elsewhere in his commentary, Brown argues that Luke would not “willfully make” “wholesale changes” because that view “does not harmonize with him as an authorized ‘messenger of Jesus Christ.’”[36] But I want to suggest that it is possible for an authorized messenger to make wholesale changes and so it is conceivable that the differences between the accounts stem from Luke’s editing and thus do not necessarily indicate that there were two anointings. After all, we have many instances of authorized messengers making changes to sacred writ, from Joseph Smith’s work on Bible translation[37] to President Kimball suggesting that “preside” was a better choice than “rule” in the canonical account of the Fall.[38] In the Restoration tradition, part of the role of authorized messengers is to edit and improve texts. We also see this in the Doctrine and Covenants: in a bit of very clever detective work, Brown highlights cases where the Doctrine and Covenants presents information about Jesus’ mortal ministry that would otherwise be unknown.[39] These additions serve as examples of an authorized messenger (in this case, Joseph Smith) presenting a rather changed view of Jesus’ mortal ministry.

In general, Brown presents Luke as highly historically reliable. However, it can be argued that there is a good case to be made that the Gospel writers exercised a stronger editorial hand as they shaped a theologically rich presentation of the life of Jesus. Similarly, we might suspect that Nephi has presented his wayward brothers in stark black and white tones when a more objective observer, such as Lehi, might have had a little more grey in his palette. Nonetheless, Nephi’s shaping achieves the laudable goal of presenting a clear choice between good and evil and this benefits his readers.[40] In Luke’s case, if he has in fact edited Mark’s story, his shaping may have been related to his interest in presenting gender pairs, since Luke’s anointing―and, especially, the ways in which it differs from Mark’s version―has many parallels with the story of the calling of Levi and the subsequent controversy over eating with him. While it may not fit contemporary notions of responsible historical writing to adjust details to make a theological point, the desire to judge ancient writers by modern cultural expectations is to be avoided. Latter-day Saint beliefs, perhaps more than those of other Christians, are well suited to accommodate strong editors because we believe in the inspired revision of scripture and we are not tied to the sole authority of a closed canon.

But when it comes to my approach versus Brown’s here, we have a continuum—not a binary choice. I certainly find a strong historical core to the New Testament accounts, and Brown allows room for some degree of editorial discretion.[41] And I hasten to add that Brown’s focus on historicity definitely bears good fruit: it has led him to make some very intriguing observations, such as noticing the likely role of women, including Mary and Philip’s daughters, as sources for Luke’s stories.[42]

On the other side of the debate, those scholars who think that there was just one anointing suggest that it strains credulity to think that Jesus would have experienced two such very similar events in his lifetime: they argue that the shared material between the two stories is far too substantive to reflect two different historical events, but that if we assume that Luke has edited Mark’s story, we find that the alterations closely match the kinds of changes that Luke makes in other situations where we are more sure that he edits Mark’s account.[43]

If there is one historical event behind both accounts, note that while it is almost universally recognized that Mark was written first, older does not always mean more accurate. (After all, if you had had the first draft of some Nephite scriptures, you wouldn’t have had the account of Samuel the Lamanite.) Brown argues that Luke may be more historically accurate than Mark because of his use of eyewitness sources. Perhaps Mark is the one who has heavily edited the story and Luke’s tradition is closer to the historical reality.

While as the mother of three young boys I have a great deal of experience in adjudicating between inconsistent narratives of past events, I am nonetheless at a loss to determine if Luke 7 and Mark 14 record the same incident. So I am not arguing that Luke’s story is the same as Mark’s; I’m not convinced of that. I just suggest that, from an LDS perspective, we would not want to dismiss that position on the basis that Luke would not have changed Mark’s account or because there are significant differences between the two texts. My sense is that, given the data that we have, the historical question is ultimately not answerable and we’d do better to focus on literary and theological investigations of the texts.

As Brown writes, “The word ‘complex’ represents accurately the relationship between the gospels of Mark and Luke.”[44] The four canonized accounts of the mortal life of Jesus are not identical, but this is, as they say in the tech world, not a bug but a feature! The differences between the accounts speak of nothing so much as the fact that Jesus’ mortal life was too grand in scope to fit into one book or to be contained within just one perspective. In the case of Luke’s omission of Mark 14:3–9, we’ve considered why Luke might have omitted this story. No firm conclusions can be reached, but in all likelihood, he left the story out because it didn’t fit one or more of his theological objectives. I reach no firm conclusions as to whether Luke 7:36–50 is or is not a record of the same historical event as Mark’s anointing, but I do suggest that Latter-day Saints have a theological foundation that can accommodate either conclusion. We can only note with intrigue that an anointing of Jesus by a woman is one of a relatively small group of stories that is found in all four Gospels.


[1]S. Kent Brown minimizes this relationship to the point of suggesting that it reads as if Luke already had a draft of the gospel before he encountered Mark and that he draws on him only very little. (See S. Kent Brown, The Testimony of St. Luke, page 32.) Given the extensive verbal similarities as well as the pattern of omissions from Mark to Luke, this seems unlikely. The reasons for thinking that Luke wrote with Mark in hand include: (1) Luke is clearly following the order of events that Mark follows. If we think Mark is not chronological (either because of the Eusebius statement and/or because of the obvious literary design of the arrangement of the material), then it is hard to imagine how Luke would end up with virtually the same order of events if he had written a draft before handling Mark and/or wasn’t closely following Mark. (2) The wording is frequently very similar and changes follow a pattern, including omission of the historical present tense (in 150 out of 151 instances), reduction in the use of the words “and” and “immediately,” providing antecedents to pronouns that might be ambiguous, and a more refined style of Greek writing in general. (3) Luke corrects mistakes in Mark, such as reference to Herod as a king or Abiathar as the high priest. (4) Luke eliminates Aramaic in Mark.

[2]The similarities include: (1) Luke, like Mark, has a doubled reference to the Passover and the feast of unleavened bread; (2) the phrase that the KJV translates “and the chief priests and the scribes sought” (Mark 14:1) is identical in the Greek in Mark and Luke; (3) the unnecessary reference to Judas as being one of the twelve (Mark 14:10//Luke 22:3; compare Mark 3:19//Luke 6:16, where Judas Iscariot has already been introduced as one of the twelve); and (4) the same five verbs are used to describe Judas going away (KJV: “went”), Judas betraying Jesus, and the rejoicing (KJV: “were glad”) of the religious authorities, Judas’ seeking (KJV: “sought”) an easy way to betray Jesus, and the final reference to “betray” (at the end of Mark 14:11)

[3]See Julie M. Smith, “She Hath Wrought a Good Work: The Anointing of Jesus in Mark’s Gospel,” Studies in the Bible and Antiquity, 5 (2013).

[4]It is possible that Luke had a defective copy of Mark’s Gospel which was missing Mark 14:3–9, so that Luke’s omission does not reflect Luke’s deliberate excision of the story. It is also possible that both Mark and Luke work from earlier (oral and/or written) traditions which lack the anointing story and only Mark chose to add the story to this location. Luke’s omission would then not reflect his specific intent in this case. However, neither of these theories is as likely as the interpretation offered in this paper, which is that Luke intentionally omitted the anointing story. The “defective copy” theory is more fanciful and far-fetched than other options and reading the anointing as a new creation of Mark’s ignores how seamlessly it fits into Mark’s context.

[5]See Mark 3:14.

[6]See Mark 9:32.

[7]See Mark 10:37.

[8]See Mark 8:32.

[9]See Mark 14:31.

[10]See Mark 14:50.

[11]Compare Mark 3:14 with Luke 6:12–16, Mark 9:32 with Luke 9:45, (Mark 10:35–41 is entirely omitted by Luke), (Mark 8:32–33 is entirely omitted by Luke), Mark 14:31 with Luke 22:31–34, and Mark 14:50 with Luke 22:53–54.

[12]See Brown, Luke, page 12.

[13]Note that the disciples are with Jesus in the stories immediately before and after this one and therefore presumably in this one, where they would be part of the “some.” And while Matthew and Mark do not always record events identically, note that Matthew, who follows Mark’s anointing story very closely, has some of the disciples object to the anointing. Additionally, the JST adds “among the disciples” after “some” to Mark’s text. Whether this change was made to harmonize with Matthew’s account or to reflect Mark’s original text cannot be determined. Nonetheless, the combination of these factors suggests that Mark is envisioning the objectors to the anointing to include (some of) the disciples.

[14]This does not imply that Luke always separates his male and female characters; in the following stories, men and women are featured together: see Luke 1:5–7, 1:24–25, 1:57–63, 2:1–7, 2:15–20, 2:41–52, 4:38–39, 7:36–50, 8:19–21, 12:45, 12:53, 14:26, 16:18, 17:32, 18:1–8, 18:29, 20:27–38, 21:1–4, 23:49, (possibly) 24:13–35 (if a woman is one of the disciples).

[15]Brown, Luke, page 40–41.

[16]Brown, Luke, page 2.

[17]See Jennifer A. English, “Which Woman? Reimagining the Woman Who Anoints Jesus in Luke 7:36–50,” Currents In Theology And Mission 39, no. 6 (December 1, 2012): 435–441.

[18]There are some exceptions; see, e.g., Luke 11:27–28.

[19]See Luke 5:11.

[20]To be sure, Mark’s picture of home and family is complicated by the instance of a negative portrayal of Jesus’ own family; see Mark 3:31–35.

[21]See Luke 1:8 and 24:53.

[22]Compare Mark 11:20–21.

[23]Compare Mark 11:12–14 with Luke 13:6–9.

[24]Brown, Luke, page 27.

[25]See Mark 1:41, 3:5 (two), 6:6, 6:34, 10:14, and 10:21. All of these are omitted by Luke.

[26]See Mark 13:32.

[27]See Mark 6:5 and 8:23–25.

[28]See Luke 22:19.

[29]There are other possible reasons as well. For example, Luke has a tendency to avoid repetition and therefore may not have wanted a second anointing alongside Luke 7:36–50.

[30]Brown, Luke, page 12.

[31]See Roger R. Keller, “Mark and Luke: Two Facets of a Diamond,” in Sperry Symposium Classics: The New Testament, ed. Frank F. Judd Jr. and Gaye Strathearn (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2006), 92–107.

[32]Although if Mark is not “in order” but Luke is, this may not be an issue. There are several occasions where Luke takes a story from Mark and moves it to an earlier point of the narrative. See Luke 13:6–9, Luke 4:16–30, Luke 10:25–37.

[33]The situation is further complicated by the interpretive decisions that we make. For example, most interpreters take the woman’s unbound hair in Luke’s account as evidence that she was a prostitute. But perhaps her hair was loose because she was prophesying (see 1 Corinthians 11:56); then Luke’s story would contain the same picture of a prophetic woman as Mark’s―they would be conveying the same idea but in different ways. So should the reference to the woman’s unbound hair count as a similarity or a difference? Next, both stories present the complaint against the anointing as ironic: in Mark, she is accused of “wasting” ointment, but the reader knows that ointment used to pronounce Jesus priest and king and to prophetically announce his suffering and death is anything but wasted. And in Luke’s account, Simon accuses Jesus of not being a prophet, but Jesus knows Simon’s thoughts. So is the shared irony of the complaint evidence of overlap, or are the differing details evidence of separation? A third example concerns the woman’s understanding of who Jesus is: in Luke’s story, the woman understands enough about Jesus’ identity to anticipate his ability to forgive, while at the end of the story, the dinner guests are still wondering who Jesus is. In Mark, the woman shows her understanding of who Jesus is through the symbolic act of anointing, while the guests and disciples still do not understand who he is. Both stories show a woman whose knowledge of Jesus exceeds that of the other guests, but at the same time, the nature of that knowledge is different.

[34]Brown, Luke, page 248.

[35]One interpretive move that Brown makes that is enormously helpful is to suggest that the quest for the one original version of events is often doomed by the realization that Jesus is likely to have taught similar sermons on multiple occasions. One need not be too bothered by discrepancies between, for example, the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon on the Plain because it is probably the case that Jesus delivered slightly different iterations of that sermon on not just one or two but many occasions. (See Brown, Luke, page 29.) This approach works best for discourse and may also make some sense for controversy stories, exorcisms, and healing miracles, but seems less likely to apply to a story like the anointing, especially given the similarities between the two accounts.

[36]Brown, Luke, page 33.

[37]An example of this from Brown: “In another example, we glimpse the youthful Jesus in the temple while his parents are frantically looking for him. When they finally locate him “in the temple, [he is] sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions” (2:46). The Joseph Smith Translation turns this scene on its head. Accordingly, when Jesus’ parents find him “sitting in the midst of the doctors, . . . they were hearing him, and asking him questions” (JST 2:46). Jesus is not the learner but the teacher, even at a young age (see the Note on 2:46; the Analysis on 2:40–52).” Brown, Luke, page 22.

[38]See Spencer W. Kimball, “The Blessings and Responsibilities of Womanhood,” March 1976 Ensign.

[39]Brown, Luke, page 24f.

[40]See Grant Hardy, Understanding the Book of Mormon.

[41] For example, at one point Brown suggests that “Luke moves the story [of Jesus’ visit to the home of Mary and Martha] from its original setting in Bethany to a place in his narrative where it makes an important point about prayers and homes.” (Brown, Luke, page 17–18.) This would be an example of exercising some editorial discretion to make a theological point.

[42]Brown, Luke, page 13.

[43]“Luke’s distinctive emphasis on Pharisees includes invitations to meals that eventuate in Jesus’ sharp criticism of the host (see 11:37–44; 14:1–24), along with the Pharisees’ repeated complaint regarding Jesus’ companionship with sinners (5:27–32; 15:1–2). The Pharisee identifies Jesus as a would-be prophet, one of Luke’s favored ways of describing Jesus. More importantly, Luke’s transformation of the woman from an insider of Jesus’ circle into a well-known sinner also participates in a uniquely Lukan dynamic. Luke includes four stories, three of them unique, that feature a common pattern: (1) Jesus (2) dining (3) with sinners, (4) arousing criticism from the righteous (5:27–32; 7:36–50; 15:1–32; 19:1–10).24 In three of these stories, the complaint comes specifically from Pharisees― a point Luke emphasizes in the redaction of Mark 2:13–17 (par. Luke 5:27–32).” Greg Carey, “Moving Things Ahead: A Lukan Redactional Technique and Its Implications for Gospel Origins,” Biblical Interpretation 21, no. 3 (January 1, 2013): 302–319.

[44]Brown, Luke, page 32.